Early mammal could bite like a snake

Jun 22, 2005

A small mammal that lived around 60 million years ago had poisonous fangs that enabled it to bite like a snake, the first time that an extinct mammal species has been found with this capacity, a new study says.

The fossilised remains of two curved canines, found in the Canadian province of Alberta, shows a groove from which the creature, Bisonalveus browni, probably shot venom into its prey.

Only a small number of modern mammals, including the duck-billed platypus and a rat-like creature called the Caribbean Solenodon, use venom delivery.

That rarity had led experts to conclude that, early in their evolution, mammals discarded the potential of venom as a way of defending themselves or getting food.

The discovery suggests, though, that mammals may have been far more flexible than was previously thought.

Some species must have developed special venom glands and the systems to deliver the poison, although how and why these evolved characteristics died out remain unclear.

The study, headed by University of Alberta palaeontologist Richard Fox, is published in Thursday's issue of Nature, the British weekly science journal.

(c) 2005 AFP

Explore further: Computer games give a boost to English

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Pesticides threaten birds and bees alike, study says

Jun 24, 2014

Neurotoxic pesticides blamed for the world's bee collapse are also harming butterflies, worms, fish and birds, said a scientific review that called Tuesday for tighter regulation to curb their use.

New insights into Australia's unique platypus

Nov 02, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- New insights into the biology of the platypus and echidna have been published, providing a collection of unique research data about the world's only monotremes.

Recommended for you

Precarious work schedules common among younger workers

6 hours ago

One wish many workers may have this Labor Day is for more control and predictability of their work schedules. A new report finds that unpredictability is widespread in many workers' schedules—one reason ...

User comments : 0